Archive for the 'Soup' Category

Pasta e ceci

April 7, 2010

I’m back from Edinburgh, where the weather was surprisingly nice, actually, and the food was a bit hit and miss, though we were staying on the same street as a cheese shop which went some way to remedying that. We ate the most amazing nutty goat’s cheese but carelessly forgot to remember what it was called, so all we know is that it comes in black wax and is a bit like gouda. Next to the cheese shop was a shop selling strange alcoholic substances in giant tanks and we went in and asked them to decant us some somerset pomona and an elderberry and port liqueur. “Is this a present for someone who likes cheese, by any chance?” the shop lady asked. Er, yes. Us.

I also got quite excited in a shop called ‘I Heart Candy’ which had an entire display table dedicated to licorice. And we managed to spend over £7 on four marinated artichoke hearts in the Valvona & Crolla deli. Over seven whole pounds. On a small part of a vegetable. We savoured them later in Carlisle train station’s waiting room as we waited for our second crowded railway service replacement bus.

So, I’m back, and I was meant to be meeting friends for dinner at Jamie’s Italian tonight, but it got cancelled so I didn’t get to eat my favourite thing from the menu, which is the slow braised balsamic chickpeas. Instead I made this, and it should really come as no surprise that I liked it a lot. It’s somewhere between a soup and a stew, thick and rustic, and it’s the kind of simple tasting thing that you feel like you could happily carry on eating until you’re very, very full. It feels quite fortifying, as if you should be eating it after a bracing walk or when recovering from illness.  Even in good health, I’d rather have eaten this than several of the overpriced restaurant meals I ate last week, and I’d still have money left over for artichokes.

Pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas)  Serves 2-4

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
a sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped (I used thyme because I had it, but I love the combination of chickpeas and rosemary so can imagine it would be even better)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas
500ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
100g small pasta shapes (I used macaroni)
salt and pepper
small handful of basil or parsley, leaves picked and torn (optional)

Put the onion, celery, rosemary and garlic into a pan with a little olive oil over the lowest possible heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the pan. Pour on the stock and cook gently, covered, for half an hour. Remove half the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and set aside while you puree the remaining soup with a hand blender (or in a food processor if you don’t have a hand blender). Add the reserved chickpeas back to the pan with the pasta, season, and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Watch that the soup doesn’t start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water if necessary to get the desired consistency – I didn’t add much as I like soup to be thick. Check the seasoning.

Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with basil or parsley if you have it.

From Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.


Tomato-miso soup

March 3, 2010

This week’s book is ‘Zen: The Art of Modern Eastern Cooking’ by Deng Ming-Dao (which, now I come to think of it, should probably be under D and not M). It’s divided into three sections: classic flavours, east-west combinations, and tea menus. Most of the things I’ve earmarked to cook are from the first section – the tea menus are ridiculously complex even for me and the  fusion dishes are mostly unappealing (mango and olive pasta anyone?). However, there was one thing that caught my eye as I flicked through which seemed as if it could work, and this is it: a fairly classic tomato soup with onion, garlic, lots of celery, carrot and tomatoes, simmered slowly and gently. The only unusual additions are a nub of ginger and a fair dollop of brown miso paste.

And it does work, I’m pleased to report – the miso gives it a solid depth, but isn’t overwhelming; it contributes a savoury note without being clearly identifiable as a flavour in its own right. This is a good way of perking up a fairly ordinary tinned tomato soup which would be equally at home, I imagine, with a noodle salad or a cheese sandwich.

Tomato-miso soup  Serves 4

1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
half bunch celery (about 5 sticks), finely sliced
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
20g butter
60ml mirin
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
375ml veg stock
60g miso paste

Melt the butter in a large pan and fry the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and ginger for 15 minutes or so over a low heat until soft (don’t let the vegetables brown).

Stir in the mirin. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Add the miso, stirring thoroughly. Pour in the stock and bring to a low simmer, leaving to cook gently for a further 45 minutes.

Blend the soup until smooth. You can garnish with chopped spring onions, ginger and/or creme fraiche, if you like.

Adapted from Deng Ming-Dao’s ‘Zen: The Art of Modern Eastern Cooking’.

Duck, mushroom and watercress broth

February 9, 2010

Ugh, this weather is really no friend to the cyclist. Last night I cycled to my yoga class with the wind blowing sleet down my hood and into my face, torn between the desire to keep my eyes shut against the onslaught of pointy ice and the need to see where I was going. This is why people hate February.

Even I struggle with February, and for me it’s birthday month, which means a lot of eating out and celebrating and presents. That just about pulls me through and drags me into March. I can’t imagine how everyone else manages.

This is a recipe for one of those February days. It’s not just soup, it’s broth, which is infinitely more restorative. It has chunks of tender duck meat, bright green watercress, and lots of mushrooms. I added noodles too, because soup is comforting and pasta is comforting, so therefore soup and pasta is comfort squared.

The flavour is all from the cooking of the duck and the stock it creates, a lovely soft cushion for the other ingredients to nestle against – what I’m trying to say is, this is easy to eat; it will pacify rather than wake up your tastebuds. You need a couple of hours to roast the duck and let it cool, but that’s the only time-consuming bit.

Duck, mushroom and watercress broth  Makes 4 huge bowlfuls

The recipe calls for duck legs, but failing those I got a pretty good deal on a Gressingham duck crown. Which, I know, is everything except the legs, but it worked. Also, technically the mushrooms should be shitake, but I used a combination of soaked dried wild mushrooms and chestnut mushrooms from the veg box.

1 duck crown or 2 large duck legs
10g wild mushrooms, soaked in hot water
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced (or the same weight shitake mushrooms)
bag of watercress, mine was 100g but you might want to use more
200g vermicelli noodles, or whatever noodles you like
few handfuls beansprouts
1 tbsp or more soy sauce
1 lime or 2 tbsp lime juice

Heat the oven to 160c. Put your duck legs or crown in a very big roasting tray, if you have one – it should be big enough to also contain the 2 litres of water you’re going to add at the next step. Being not so well equipped, I used our big Ikea stockpot. Sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Take out the tray/pot and pour out any duck fat that has collected in the bottom. You can keep this for roasting potatoes and that sort of thing. Pour in the water. Put the duck back in the oven for another hour, or until it’s properly cooked through, clear juices etc. Take the duck out of the stock and set it aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, skim the fat from the top of the stock and strain it into a big saucepan.

Discard the skin from the duck and separate the meat into chunks. It may just pull away from the bones, but since ours was a bit more stubborn we sliced it into manageable pieces. Put the meat back into the stock and bring to the boil. Cook your noodles in a separate pan according to packet instructions.

Once the soup is boiling, throw in the mushrooms (you can put the dried mushrooms in soaking liquid and all) and add the soy sauce. Bring back to the boil and add the watercress and noodles, then turn off the heat. The watercress should be added right at the end so that it stays fresh and green looking, so if you want to save portions of soup for later hold off on adding all the watercress. You can even, as we did, just put a big handful of watercress in each soup bowl and ladle the soup over the top. The heat of the soup is enough to wilt the watercress.

Strew a big handful of beansprouts over each portion and squeeze over lime juice. Add more soy sauce to taste at the table.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Colour Cookbook’.

Vegetable soup

January 4, 2010

Happy new year! Well, that’s another Christmas over with. And, undeniably nice though it is to be eating delicious rich meals that have been cooked for you every day, with a choice of puddings, and booze, and maybe one or two Thornton’s to ward off the appearance of so much as a whisker of hunger, when I got back home I really just wanted a plate of beans on toast. With marmite on the toast, naturally. And then I wanted some vegetable soup.

99.9% of the year, I would have passed over this recipe. We are talking about Mollie Katzen’s ‘The Enchanted Broccoli Forest’ – there are plenty more interesting/odd sounding things (including an actual recipe for an actual broccoli forest. I may find her unremitting tweeness endearing, but even I draw the line at making woodland scenes from vegetables). I mean, vegetable soup just makes me think of the yellow goop you get from Heinz tins, replete with tinny tasting potatoes and tinny tasting carrots. I was almost surprised by how nice this turned out – I really just wanted something plain, with vegetables in it, that wouldn’t make my overloaded tummy hate me even more. But this was herby, and brothy in a clean tasting way, but with pleasing nourishing chunky bits. It’s really the large quantities of mushrooms, I think, that make it – Tom said it tasted ‘meaty’. So you could think of it as mushroom soup, with extras, if vegetable soup sounds too dull.

Vegetable soup  Serves 4-6

In the book, this soup is really a base from which you can add – put in different cooked vegetables, beans and grains, serve with cheese toasts or poached eggs, add tofu – there’s even a recipe for alphabet soup! Yay! I really should have made it. Except I didn’t want alphabetti spaghetti in my soup.

1 large potato, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 cups water or stock
a pinch of salt (I suggest you leave this out if your stock is quite salty)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
250g mushrooms, chopped quite small
1/2 tsp each thyme, dill, marjoram and basil (I used a couple of sprigs each of lemon thyme and rosemary, as that was what I had fresh)
black pepper
200ml dry white wine (or use vermouth)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup frozen peas (not sure what the non-US cup measurement equivalent is – a couple of large handfuls I’d say)
1 spring onion, finely sliced (for garnish)

Boil the potato in the stock or water until the potato is just tender. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, garlic and salt. Saute over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring regularly, for about 8 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft and tender. Then tip the contents of the frying pan into the stock pan. Add the wine or vermouth, soy sauce and peas and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Sprinkle a bit of spring onion on top of each serving.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s ‘The Enchanted Broccoli Forest: And Other Timeless Delicacies’.